Here is a surprisingly impossible challenge: find a meal that’s healthy, cheap and requires zero time or effort to prepare. Cheap and healthy is doable, but taking even three minutes each morning to prepare a salad for lunch is too much work for me. Yes, I’m that lazy. And it’s why I’m a charter member of #TeamFoodPill.
There is still no food pill out there, but there is a close approximation in a new product called Soylent. For the unfamiliar, Soylent is essentially a protein shake with a few tweaks. (1) It’s got a balanced nutritional profile so you can have it for every meal. (2) It’s cheaper, coming in at around $3 per meal. (3) A shipment of powder and oil comes to your home and you make shakes whenever you need them, in whatever amount you choose. Healthy, cheap and easy prep. SOLD.
There are many Soylent believers like me, but many others who heard about it and absolutely flipped the fuck out in dismissal. People knee-jerkedly wrote off the product as yet another Silicon Valley bro-fad designed to unnaturally automate our lives, a life-hack that is at best needless and at worst dangerous. It’s been called boring, joyless, and perhaps the first step in some 1984 anti-social food-pill nightmare scenario. You can pry my Sunday brunch from my cold, dead hands.
Rigoddamndiculous. Soylent is not meant to replace family dinners or lunches with pals. It’s meant to replace drive-thru, takeout, cafeteria burgers, frozen pizza, or whatever you eat when you don’t have the time or energy to make something healthy.
That’s that goal, at least. I am fully aware that Soylent is mostly untested and may be laughed at someday, but off the bat it seemed like a worthy solution to my meal dilemma. So I placed an order which arrived a few weeks back. Here is my review of the experience thus far.
The box comes with packets of powder, vials of oil, a pitcher and instructions. Couldn’t be more simple on paper: dump the powder and oil in the pitcher, add water, shake and let it chill/settle for at least a few hours and ideally overnight.
In reality, it wasn’t that easy. The mixture remains clumpy even after shaking. And the next morning, the oil separates a bit near the top. So unless you own a paint-can shaker, be ready to shake intensely upfront and then again when you’re ready to drink. Not a big deal but my bet is the Soylent team is working on a solve.
Each pitcher includes one full day of calories, but I have mostly been using it for weekday lunches. I pour a third of the batch (20ish ounces) into a thermos the night before and store it in the freezer. Grab-and-go in the morning and drink over the lunch hour. I still do the intermittent fasting thing so I hold off until noon, but I think it’s a solid breakfast option too.
I rinse out the empty thermos at night, refill, make a new batch when it’s gone. Minimal prep: check.
The main description others have given is a slightly sweet, slightly grainy pancake batter. Sounded fine to me as taste is low on my priority list compared to the other factors.
That said, my first batch was…less than ideal. The pancake batter is a perfect description, except mine was overly grainy, warm and kinda chalky. I choked it down and made three improvements to the second batch.
(1) I added cinnamon, (2) I made sure the shake was extremely cold using the freezer/thermos combo and (3) the aforementioned over-shaking. The result was better than drinkable, it was downright pleasant. Like a thin, cinnamony milkshake. I actually look forward to lunch now.
In other words, if you don’t expect too much from it, you might not be let down.
Related: there are tons of other flavors/ingredients that can be added to the mixture, from chocolate to fruit (a lot of people use their blender). Point is, if you are interested in amping up the flavor, solutions abound.
After his first Soylent-only week, founder Rob Rhinehart stated:
I feel like the six million dollar man. My physique has noticeably improved, my skin is clearer, my teeth whiter, my hair thicker and my dandruff gone. My resting heart rate is lower, I haven’t felt the least bit sickly, rare for me this time of year. I’ve had a common skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris since birth. That was gone by day nine. I used to run less than a mile at the gym; now I can run seven. I have more energy than I know what to do with.
I can’t say if this is remotely accurate since I’m just using it for one meal a day, but expectations on energy, satiety, etc were fairly high. And the results: so far, so good.
I used to fast in the mornings, eat a small lunch and then gorge when I got home, but now I’m more full throughout the afternoon. It’s not a miracle by any means – I’m still hungry by dinnertime. But it’s as filling as it needs to be. Same for my energy level, cravings for sweets, sleep, etc. No miracles to report; all systems are a go.
Lastly, two side effects have been reported so often they are now noted in the welcome packet: headaches and unending farts. I’m happy to report no aches whatsoever, either of the head- or guilt-from-clearing-a-room- variety. Thank god for that.
TLDR: more updates to come, but so far I’m a fan.
More reading if you’re curious: